Real note I sent home with one of my Yearbook students:
Dear Derrell’s Mother,
Why doesn’t your son know who Coolio is?
Slide, Slide, Slippedy Slide,
I was just so stunned that one of my kids would have no idea who the genius was who brought us “Gangsta’s Paradise,” that I felt it couldn’t possibly be true! Full disclosure: I have a great relationship with this kid’s mom. Yearbook is so much more fun than it was last year. I have such a creative group of students who blow my mind with their creativity. Sometimes I embarrass myself (and them) by jumping up and down, hugging them, and yelling, “Oh! That is so brilliant! I am so proud of you!!!” and then they tell me how white I am and I remind them that I know who Coolio is and they don’t.
Moving on, I got another apple last week! The student who gave it to me is a goofy, white kid, whose name is unfortunately, Melvin.* I totally love him. You have to imagine the hell of being a goofy, white 9th grader at my school named Melvin. He works really hard, never is a problem, and is always very respectful. Today, I received a request to come to a child study (an evaluation for a possible learning disability) at the request of his foster parent. I died a little. That sweet boy is in foster care. My first thought was, “Ok, I need to ask Mr. Nilknarf if we can adopt him.” I’m really bad about this. I want to bring all of my needy students into my home, as if living with me would fix everything and save them. I was relieved to find out from his counselor that his foster parent is a wonderful woman who really loves him.
As teachers, we hear many negative things. From the snide, “must be nice to get your summers off!” to “I could NEVER do that job,” the comments can get demoralizing. What people do not get, is we don’t do it just because we love the subjects we teach. We do it for the kids like Melvin. Next time, instead of making a negative (however well-intentioned) comment about how much our jobs must suck and how you don’t know how we do it, just thank us for what we do for kids. If you have time, ask to hear a story about a kid who made it worth it for us. It will make us both feel better about teaching.
*This isn’t really his name, but it is something equally white and old timey.